Arab Today, arab today bangladesh\s libya evacuees keen to get back to work
Last Updated : GMT 09:27:54
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Bangladesh\'s Libya evacuees keen to get back to work

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Arab Today, arab today Bangladesh\'s Libya evacuees keen to get back to work

Chorashundi - AFP

Bangladeshi migrant worker Kamal Matbar, 23, fled his job in Libya when civil war broke out, but now he is desperate to return to the war-torn country to save himself from bankruptcy. Some 37,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers were evacuated from Libya, mostly by the International Organisation for Migration or their employers, when foreign companies shut up shop as fighting erupted earlier this year. Most, like Matbar, arrived home penniless and in debt to the recruiting agents who secured their initial contracts. The only way to get out of debt now is to head back overseas, Matbar said. \"I need to go back to Libya -- war is over, I know the country well and I have to repay my debts urgently,\" Matbar told AFP, adding he had taken out a 300,000 taka ($4,000) high-interest loan to secure his first Libya contract. \"I will never be able to pay back my loan in Bangladesh, there\'s no decent job for me here.\" Matbar wants to return despite his last memories of the country. \"We saw gunmen patrolling the streets, robbing and shooting unarmed people, torching houses,\" he said. \"I was lucky my Malaysian firm arranged transport to the Tunisia border and air tickets home. Others were just left to escape.\" Before war broke out, tens of thousands of Bangladeshi contract workers were based in Libya, working mostly for large Korean companies on oil or infrastructure projects. Globally, up to nine million Bangladeshis work overseas, sending back annual remittances totalling some $12 billion, which makes up 10 percent of annual Gross Domestic Product. After the death of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in October, Bangladesh -- which has been hit hard by a fall in remittances due to unrest in the Arab world -- said it would send construction workers back to Libya. The Dhaka government immediately opened discussions with the transitional authorities on a deal, and it says that many firms that employed Bangladeshi workers before the unrest have already got back in contact. \"A group of 38 Bangladeshi migrants who worked for an Italian firm before the war broke out has already left for Libya to join the company,\" overseas employment secretary Jafar Ahmed Khan told AFP. \"We\'ve had talks with Libya and the companies where our labourers were before the war. They want to take Bangladeshi workers back. Libya will be a big job market for us as our workers have a good reputation.\" For most Bangladeshi migrants, overseas contracts are the only way they can support their families -- and to secure them they often take out huge loans, usually from their employment broker. When contracts go sour, as happened in Libya, returning overseas to pay off their debts is often their only option, said International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokesman Asif Munier. \"They are desperate as they think they do not have jobs in their villages,\" he said. After migrants have already left Bangladesh once \"they have gained confidence about working abroad and believe that they can do better,\" Munier told AFP. Most Bangladeshi migrants find work through the country\'s 800 government licensed recruiting agencies. The agencies, which are not tightly regulated, are often accused of charging excessive fees. The agents do not reimburse the fees paid to secure long-term contracts when things go wrong -- even when migrants like Matbar are forced to leave after a matter of months. The government provided workers returning from Libya with a hand-out of 50,000 taka ($650) but it argues it has no power to force the recruiting agencies to forgive the debts. The government\'s policy is to pressure recruitment agencies to give priority to Libya returnees for new contracts -- and they have also warned agents not to over-charge, said Ministry of Manpower secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan. \"It is a condition all recruiters must show they have met before we will give them approval on other issues,\" Khan said. But Anisur Rahman Khan, coordinator of a local Bangladeshi charity that is a member of the Hong Kong-based International Migrant Alliance, says workers who are indebted because of previous contracts are now even more vulnerable. \"Those people who are already in debt will get in debt all the more to go abroad again,\" he said.

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